Profit-taking hits European stocks

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A US biotech firm Moderna has reported 'positive interim' results in early testing of a vaccine candidate

Europe's major stock markets mostly retreated Tuesday, partly reversing the previous session's rally, as traders banked profits, digested grim data and mulled coronavirus vaccine hopes.

London stocks lost 0.8 percent after official data showed a record surge in UK jobless claims during April, as businesses ravaged by fallout from the deadly COVID-19 outbreak laid off workers.

In the eurozone, Paris shed 0.9 percent on news that European auto sales had collapsed by a record 76.3 percent year-on-year in April, while Frankfurt squeaked into positive territory just before the closing bell.

"Stock markets in Europe are in the red as traders’ book some of their profits from yesterday’s massive gains" that were driven on more economies opening up and hopes for a vaccine, said market analyst David Madden at CMC Markets UK.

"Economies around the global are still being reopened, and hopes remain high for a potential Covid-19 vaccine, but it seems like the bulls have decided to take a breather today," he added.

Shares across Europe had received a shot in the arm Monday from news of a 500-billion-euro ($542-billion) French-German fund to help the European Union economy combat COVID-19 fallout.

New York stocks then soared after US biotech firm Moderna reported "positive interim" results in early testing of a vaccine candidate, with some analysts suggesting that if all goes well it could be in use by the end of the year.

"It's early days but markets are prepared to see the glass half full at this stage," said analyst Neil Wilson.

"A vaccine -- not treatment -- is key of course to resuming life as normal. It's the holy grail right now and markets are prepared to take a leap of faith."

- 'Muted' mood -

On Tuesday, however, attention in the US was on clues about US monetary and fiscal policy as US Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin testified before the Senate Banking Committee on the government's response to the coronavirus.

"The mood in New York is muted as traders are paying close attention to the testimony," said CMC Markets UK's Madden.

"The commentary from the men in question has had little impact on the equity markets. The S&P 500 is essentially flat on the day, but keep in mind it rallied over 3 percent yesterday, so it seems that traders are keen to sit on the fence today."

Both the S&P 500 and the Dow were narrowly lower in late morning New York trading as European markets closed, although the tech-heavy Nasdaq was pushing higher.

Shares in Walmart added 0.6 percent after the booming demand for groceries and essential items due to the coronavirus lockdowns lifted Walmart's first-quarter profits.

Walmart's e-commerce business surged a staggering 74 percent in the quarter ending April 30, with home-bound customers opting for grocery delivery at home or for click-and-pickup options at stores.

- Key figures around 1530 GMT -

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.8 percent at 6,002.23 points (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: UP 0.2 percent at 11,075.29 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 0.9 percent at 4,458.16 (close)

Milan - FTSE MIB: DOWN 2.1 percent at 17,034.54 (close)

Madrid - IBEX 35: DOWN 2.5 percent at 6,609.10 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.2 percent at 2,906.42

New York - Dow: DOWN 0.1 percent at 24,568.92

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 1.5 percent at 20,433.45 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 1.9 percent at 24,388.13 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.8 percent at 2,898.58 (close)

Brent North Sea crude: UP 1. percent at $35. per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: UP 2. percent at $32. per barrel

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0929 from $1.0913 at 2100 GMT

Dollar/yen: UP at 107.96 yen from 107.34

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2243 from $1.2194

Euro/pound: DOWN at 89.26 pence from 89.50 pence